Saturday, May 14, 2016

SOJA ROCKS VALPARAISO, CHILE !!

On a cool, fall Wednesday evening the port city of Valparaiso, Chile welcomed SOJA at the Teatro Municipal, a circa 1950's theater situated in the heart of this eclectic city oozing with character.
Reggae shows are well-known for starting and ending late, so it was a welcome, if not surprising, treat when SOJA took the stage at precisely 9:00pm!
For the next 2 hours the roots reggae group from D.C. treated their Chilean audience to a diverse set from their impressive catalog of albums. SOJA is truly a tight-knit group of extremely talented musicians. From the outset, Jacob Hemphill's raspy vocals and crisp delivery was evident on tunes like Sorry, Mentality and Born In Babylon. Bobby Lee's bass was booming throughout and he filled in beautifully for Collie Buddz on the bubblin' combination chune She Still Loves Me and for Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley on the poignant and positive Your Song. It was amazing to see and hear the Chileans sing every word in unison. No language barrier here! Strictly roots and culture knows no bounds.

Bobby Lee took center stage with his bass and vocals on the pulsatingly-wicked Driving Faster, among others. Trevor Young really wowed the crowd as he took the lead on Shadow, complete with an amazing ska breakdown! At one point, percussionist Ken Brownell, drummer Ryan Berty and keyboardist Patrick O'Shea all got together center stage with the others and proceeded to have a an incredible percussion/drum battle. To see a band mix it up like that not only shows their talent and ability, but also their love for the music and especially their audience! It's obvious they enjoy entertaining their fans. This too was evident throughout the night, as everyone regularly moved to the front of the stage to interact with the crowd.

One thing that really elevates SOJA above the rest of the pack is their horn-section. Hellman Escorcia and Rafael Rodriguez (the former on saxophone and the latter on trumpet) beautifully threaded their impressive skills and solos throughout the set. If only every reggae band had a horn section!
All of SOJA's classics were on parade- Jacob playfully injected 'Valparaiso is nice' into Let You Go, much to the delight of los chilenos. He was also very conscious about whether or not he was pronouncing 'Valparaiso' correctly, repeating it several times. "Am I saying that right?" Each time the crowd roared with approval!

Not Done Yet... Tear It Down... Tell Me... I Believe... and the thumping Rest Of My Life. What a set list! A SOJA die hard couldn't have asked for better! Mingled between the classics were 2 awesome new songs from their forthcoming album (stay tuned for release information).
At one point between songs Jacob paused to thank the fans. "We have the coolest jobs in the world and it's all because of you guys"... a perfect lead in to the roots-classic True Love, from their second album 'Peace In a Time of War'.

The conclusion of an amazing evening was definitely a highlight! Trevor Young traded verses with Hemphill on You and Me. Chris Boomer would have certainly approved. Trevor has an incredible range in his voice and his falsetto perfectly complimented the smokiness of Jacob's voice. This was a mesmerizing rendition of an amazing song... it brought chills. The iconic, pointed yet hopeful I Don't Wanna Wait closed an incredible show! SOJA clearly has a huge following in South America, as evidenced by their tour stops in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Ecuador and Chile. Let's hope they return soon!

Saturday, May 07, 2016

BIG MOUNTAIN SET TO RELEASE FIRST STUDIO ALBUM IN OVER A DECADE

Out May 27th via VPAL
With a Top 10 U.S. Billboard hit and combined single and album sales of over 35 million under their belt, American reggae band Big Mountain returns with Perfect Summer on May 27.

After taking 10 years off from recording, Big Mountain teams up with VPAL, the distribution arm of the world's leading reggae label VP Records, to give the world great music once again. Their new studio album Perfect Summer is a refreshing collection of their signature sound and features a stellar cover of The Beatles "Here Comes The Sun." The group will also embark on a world tour in support of the album over the summer. Dates are TBA.

Big Mountain has an impressive catalog of hits and is internationally known for their 1994 iconic
reggae cover of Peter Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Way." At the time, the song was featured in the blockbuster film Reality Bites, reached No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on Mainstream Top 40, and No. 2 in the UK. The single still continues to receive over 600,000 Spotify streams per month and is heard on the radio airwaves today.

Big Mountain consists of five members: lead vocalist Quino (who incorporates Spanish and English lyrics into their music), keyboardist Michael (former member of Ziggy Marley's band), guitarist and vocalist Danny Lopilato, Montego Bay drummer Paul Kastick and Southern Cali bassist Mike Ortiz.

Friday, February 05, 2016

VP RECORDS REMEMBERS "THE CROWN PRINCE OF REGGAE" DENNIS BROWN


Double-Disc Tribute Album Slated for Late Spring 2016

Series of Singles From Compilation To Be Released in February
by Romain Virgo, Raging Fyah, Jah9, The Green and Marsha Ambrosius

February 1st, marked the late reggae and lover's rock icon Dennis Brown's 59th birthday. Hailed by NPR Morning Edition as one of the 50 great voices of all time and by Bob Marley as one of the best reggae singers in the world - the revered Jamaican icon began his recording career at the tender age of 11 and has more than 75 albums to date. Even though he passed away at the early age of 42, his music and legacy lives on.

VP Records, reggae's leading distributor and label, will pay homage this spring with an extensive tribute album We Remember Dennis Brown of his timeless hits covered by some reggae and r&b's most renowned artists today. Each song was re-produced by Jamaican legend Clive Hunt with his all-star team of musicians to give each song an authentic yet fresh feel.

To celebrate the icon during his birthday month, VP Records will reveal one song from the album every Friday for the next five weeks - including "Caress Me Girl" on Feb 5 from one of Jamaica's brightest voices Romain Virgo,  "Milk & Honey" on Feb 12 by roots reggae rockers Raging Fyah, "Bloody City" on Feb 19 from the Caribbean's soulful songstress Jah9,  "Promised Land" on  Feb 26 from Hawaiian reggae band The Green and "Have You Ever" on Mar 4 by R&B powerhouse Marsha Ambrosius.

In addition to these power hitters, We Remember Dennis Brown will feature an array of singers from Brown's native country and across the globe who he influenced. Jamaica's latest crop of stars (including Jah Cure, Gyptian, Chronixx and Jesse Royal) as well as the island's icons who worked with Brown (like reggae vocalists Bushman and Freddie McGregor) all offer their contributions. Freddie's son Chino McGregor and Christopher Ellis, the talented UK-based singer and offspring of Alton Ellis (another one of Brown's musical mentors and confidants), both deliver powerful renditions of Brown's classics. New Zealand rockers also create a breezy rendition of "If I Had The World." The worldly collection proves that his universal sound transcends all boundaries of time, race and creed. Each artist adds their own original flair to Brown's profound soul-stirring sound - touching the hearts of new and old fans alike on this unique multi-disc collection. We Remember Dennis Brown will include deluxe packaging as well as extensive liner notes on the belated legend.

DENNIS BROWN
Dennis Brown was greatly influenced by American balladeers such as Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as well as Jamaican singers like Delroy Wilson and John Holt. At only 12-years-old, he cut his first hit "No Man Is An Island" at Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's famous Studio One. Within the years, he was a force to be reckoned with musically - dubbed the "Boy Wonder of Jamaica" and "Crown Prince of Reggae." Before he was 16, he had worked with Jamaica's top recording artists (Alton Ellis, Horace Andy) and producers of the time (Prince Buster, Dennis Alcapone, Winston "Niney" Holness and Vincent "Randy" Chin). In the 1970s, he worked closely with producer Joe Gibbs and released multiple albums. One of the album's songs "Money in my Pocket," peaked at #14 on UK Top 40 chart becoming one of the biggest international hits in Jamaica's history. This success landed him the cover of the NME's February 1979 issue. Enthusiastically adapting to the new dancehall era, Brown released a huge amount of work throughout the 1980s recording with genre's major producers like King Jammy on Brown's 1986 album The Exit and Gussie Clarke in 1989 with the Gregory Isaacs duet "Big All Round" and the album Unchallenged. He continued to record prolifically in the 1990s before his passing. His 1994 album Light My Fire and 2001 release Let Me Be the One were both nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.